A New Day Yesterday For The Mariners

Originally published August 1st, 2012

Major League Baseball’s “Trade Deadline” loomed over the Mariners like an ominous cloud.

After trading Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees for two minor league pitchers, there were fans that expected a virtual fire sale in the organization.  Kevin Millwood and Jason Vargas were almost surely gone.  Tom Wilhelmsen was a hot commodity that would add instant value to a team in search of a closer.   Players like John Jaso and Brendon Ryan added great bench depth, and even with Miguel Olivo’s production, he could have been a great addition for a team like the Rangers before they traded for Geovany Soto.  And what about Felix?  Jack Zduriencik had made it clear that Felix Hernandez was an untouchable in the organization, but his name was still out there.  Minutes to deadline, fans on both sides of trade arguments were holding their breath to see if the cloud would pass, or if it would open up in a virtual downpour.

Jack Zduriencik made a statement by standing relatively firm at the Trade Deadline.  League and Delabar weren’t part of the Mariners future.  Jack Z was not paying League $5 million to pitch middle relief (ineffectively) and Delabar was a yo-yo between Tacoma and Seattle.  Delabar was a good story, sure, but not a key piece moving forward.  Zduriencik showed 1)  That he was not going to make moves for the sake of making them and 2) He wasn’t going to give anyone away.  Look at some of the names that were really expected to move at the Deadline:

Jason Vargas:  Why would you trade a left handed pitcher w/a sub 4.00 ERA, that does nothing but win at home, and costs less than $5 million a year?  Yes, Vargas is arbitration eligible in 2013, but what’s the downside to keeping him?  Say Vargas goes to arbitration — He maxes out around $8-9 million a year at best?  Vargas has been a .500 pitcher over his career, but he’s found a role with the Mariners.  He’s successful at Safeco and knows it.  I’d expect Zduriencik to sign him to a contract in the offseason.  $8-9 million is a best case scenario for Vargas, we’ll probably get him cheaper than that!  It just didn’t make sense to trade Vargas given his upside and role in Seattle.  We have enough mid-talent Minor League pitchers.  Why give him away?

Kevin Milwood:  It’s extremely unlikely that Milwood has any future with the Mariners.  Seattle signed him as the 1yr veteran presence on the staff and he came at a great price.  It would have been easy to trade him to someone, anyone, for a bucket of balls or Single-A player.  I don’t mean that as any disrespect to Milwood.  He’s a consummate professional.  He’s been everything the Mariners have asked him to be, but he has zero trade value.  I’d argue that Kevin Milwood has more value to the Mariners the last half of the season than he’d have with any other team.  Come September, a player like Kevin Milwood will add a lot to helping develop the young push of arms that hits the team for a cup of coffee or that first look at next year.

John Jaso:  Jaso is one of those guys that I thought for sure was out of here.  He was hitting close to .300 w/5HR thru last week and his OBP and OPS are both solid.  Jaso is one of those guys that looks confident at the plate, you had to think he was on any contending teams radar.  Imagine my surprise when he wasn’t traded!  I kind of wondered what was wrong with the guy!  Ha-ha.  I drilled in a little more and know why; the guy is practically free!  Jaso is another arbitration eligible player in 2013.  With Jaso’s production and role on the team, you have to think the M’s offer him arbitration.  Like Vargas, why give a guy like that away?

Brendan Ryan:  I don’t see Brendan Ryan in the Mariners future.  He’s signed thru this year and is arbitration eligible in 2013.  The problem for Brendan Ryan is that he can’t hit.  He’s a terrific SS, but any guy that gets a party for hitting over .200 is a tough trade.  I’m sure the Mariners could have moved Ryan at the deadline, and I could see him being claimed off waivers.

Food For Thought:  This year’s Waiver Deadline could be a catalyst for the Seattle Mariners.  Jack Zduriencik made a statement in what he didn’t do at the Trade Deadline.  He didn’t give players away, and he didn’t make moves for the sake of making moves.  But, Zduriencik also made a statement in what he did do by moving Ichiro.  The Mariners are shedding payroll left and right.  There are two trains of thought here:  1) The Mariners are shedding payroll for the sake of saving money and reducing expenses or 2) The Mariners have opened up a lot of room for either signing players or making moves.  The Waiver Deadline could be our first glimpse as fans on which direction the team is going in.  Contending teams make power moves by claiming high priced talent at the deadline, but this could be the first year we see a team not in contention really go out and make a statement for next year.

Did we see a “New Day Yesterday” for the Mariners?  Mariners fans everywhere are marking August 31st on their calendars.  Cloudy with a chance of…?

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